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The 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion: African American Soldiers That Fought In WWII

During World War II, only a handful of African American combat units were formed, and still fewer actually saw combat. Today, the “Black Panthers” of the 761st Tank Battalion and the “Tuskegee Airmen” of the Army Air Forces are the best known of these units, but there is another that deserves a place alongside them—the “Gamecocks” of the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion.
The 614th was activated at Camp Carson, Colorado, on 25 July 1942 with an original cadre of five officers and 172 enlisted men taken primarily from the 366th Infantry Regiment (Colored). The rest of the enlisted men were drawn from other Army installations. Only five of the battalion’s officers were white; the rest, including the company officers, were African American. Under Lieutenant Colonel Blaisdell C. Kenon, the battalion began its basic training as a mechanized unit equipped with half-tracks carrying the antiquated M1897A4 75mm gun. 
While moving across an exposed area between Büschdorf and Mittel-Unter-Tünsdorf, Germany, 1st Platoon, Company C, came under heavy mortar and artillery fire. After an initial panic, the men rallied to the calls of their officers, and
despite the loss of one man killed and several wounded, resumed an orderly advance, as one of the award citations later described, “through a hail of fire.” First Lieutenant Lt. Walter S. Smith and Staff Sergeant Christopher J. Sturkey, were awarded the Silver Star for their gallantry during this action.
A few days later, near the town of Borg, Germany Company A engaged in a direct fire mission against enemy pillboxes. After receiving several direct hits on their positions, the Germans indicated a desire to surrender, but opened fire again when troopers from a nearby cavalry unit approached. Company A resumed firing, and the surviving defenders surrendered after being forced from their positions by a barrage of accurate fire from the 3-inch guns. Later the same day, the gunners of Company A engaged an 88mm gun and destroyed it with three well aimed rounds. Overall, the 614th’s performance in its initial engagements was satisfactory, and the conduct of its officers and men under fire provided a glimpse of how they would handle themselves in future engagements.

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